Rubber meets road

Three weeks ago, the RN&R (The Bike Issue, July 31) featured bicycles and their impacts on many aspect of ours society in virtually every feature of this newspaper. The issue generated a lot of fairly favorable commentary from just about every group in town—from business to government to ecology to tourism. In fact, about the worst thing anyone had to say about it was we were being a bit too optimistic in our hopes for sustainable transportation in the Truckee Meadows.

At the Hot August Bike Ride, one of the events we featured in our Bike Issue, Reno City Councilman David Aiazzi introduced a mass of 250-300 bicycle riders to the idea that Mayberry Drive, which already has the green signage “bike route,” might actually get some bike lanes painted on that new shiny blacktop.

Well, it turns out the Reno City Council will hear from the public on the restriping issue after we go to press on Wednesday, and frankly—judging from the advance coverage in the local media—there’s nothing to indicate whether the roads will be made safer for a huge contingent of their users. Mayberry Drive is one of the most popular bike routes in this community, and this decision may come to stand as a bellwether as to where our community’s leadership sees our future: A more sustainable place to live or a more expensive and dangerous place to live.

Because that’s what it’s about—safety for some people vs. convenience for others. One person was quoted in the RG-J as saying, “Traffic congestion has increased to ridiculous levels. Just going to the store, I had to sit through three green lights to get across McCarran.”

Too true. Due to the reconstruction of the road, traffic is shoved back. However, this problem will be alleviated immediately upon painting the new lines.

There are other points to consider, too. First, why in the world would anyone make a special trip to the store in these days of $4 a gallon gasoline? To make a special trip to the store and then complain about sitting through three cycles of lights is the height of obnoxiousness, akin to complaining about the high price of caviar. Second, if the driver had been on a bicycle, there would have been no reason to wait for two of those three lights. It’s 1.3 miles from the corner of McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive to the nearest grocery store.

It’s a vicious cycle. If fewer people were making special trips to the store in their car, there would be less congestion on the road. If there was less congestion on the road, then there would be enough road for bike lanes. If there were bike lanes, people would feel safer riding their bicycles on the road, which in turn would tend to further decrease the number of motorized vehicles on the road. And which just may make two other projects—more automobile lanes on West Fourth Street and more lanes on Interstate 80—unnecessary by the time they are needed in 2018.

It’s a new world, and we can hope there were enough rational voices at last night’s meeting to encourage the Reno City Council in the right direction. We can also hope that people will continue pounding the drum: The safer people feel on bicycles, the more they ride, decreasing congestion and making the roads safer for drivers and riders.